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Karsten Laursen

Long-term changes in nutrients and mussel stocks are related to numbers of breeding eiders Somateria mollissima at a large baltic colony

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  • Karsten Laursen
  • Anders Pape Møller, Laboratoire d'Ecologie, Systématique et Evolution, CNRS UMR 8079, Université Paris-Sud, Denmark

Background: The Baltic/Wadden Sea eider Somateria mollissima flyway population is decreasing, and this trend is also reflected in the large eider colony at Christiansø situated in the Baltic Sea. This colony showed a 15-fold increase from 1925 until the mid-1990's, followed by a rapid decline in recent years, although the causes of this trend remain unknown. Most birds from the colony winter in the Wadden Sea, from which environmental data and information on the size of the main diet, the mussel Mytilus edulis stock exists. We hypothesised that changes in nutrients and water temperature in the Wadden Sea had an effect on the ecosystem affecting the size of mussel stocks, the principal food item for eiders, thereby influencing the number of breeding eider in the Christiansø colony. Methodology/Principal Finding: A positive relationship between the amount of fertilizer used by farmers and the concentration of phosphorus in the Wadden Sea (with a time lag of one year) allowed analysis of the predictions concerning effects of nutrients for the period 1925-2010. There was (1) increasing amounts of fertilizer used in agriculture and this increased the amount of nutrients in the marine environment thereby increasing the mussel stocks in the Wadden Sea. (2) The number of eiders at Christiansø increased when the amount of fertilizer increased. Finally (3) the number of eiders in the colony at Christiansø increased with the amount of mussel stocks in the Wadden Sea. Conclusions/Significance: The trend in the number of eiders at Christiansø is representative for the entire flyway population, and since nutrient reduction in the marine environment occurs in most parts of Northwest Europe, we hypothesize that this environmental candidate parameter is involved in the overall regulation of the Baltic/Wadden Sea eider population during recent decades.

Original languageEnglish
JournalP L o S One
Pages (from-to)e95851
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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